It’s a pretty simple idea. or at least should be. Heck, it’s the first thing we do when we come into this world.

Ok, so maybe that very first breathe is accompanied by screaming as we quickly being to wonder what we just got ourselves into – kind of like the feeling when we walk into our first ashtanga class – but it’s a big, deep breath, again, kind of like when we start an ashtanga class. <br />Yet, somehow, with time, we forget about the importance of breathing. I mean, really breathing. Deep breaths that fill our lungs with oxygen, and, amazingly, get us to slow down.

A Pema Chodron book I’m reading talks about setting time in the day, actually putting a reminder on your calendar, to stop and take three deep breaths. When we’re feeling stressed, people say “Just breathe.” A sigh, another deep breath we do almost unconsciously. All because that deep breath does something to calm us.

In my practice, especially lately, the breath has become of the utmost importance. It’s the breath that helps me focus. I’ve come to love the feeling of being in downward dog and taking those 5 deep inhales and exhales. It’s with those breaths that I feel myself begin to calm down, that I’m able to stop the racing mind and get into my practice. With these breaths, I notice my attention turn inward. I can concentrate on what I’m doing on the mat, and for a short time, forget about all the emotional drama happening in my life.

As I say that, though, I’ve had experiences lately where the breath has helped to bring an emotional release. It’s as if the breath opens up spaces that are trying with all their might to stay closed. It’s a crazy feeling, yet, oh, so necessary.

Of course, there are times when I forget to breathe and need a little reminder from the teacher…

And when I’m not in a class or mysore, all I need to do is look down at my tattoo, with the word “Breathe” inked on me for a lifelong reminder.